The Simple Joy Of Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale

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The game hasn’t aged well, but neither have I. That’s okay, we’re still both kind of awesome anyway!

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale is (wait for this, you won’t see it coming) a videogame set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe, specifically in an area known as (hold on to something, this is a shocking twist) Daggerdale.

The game released – to little fanfare – in 2011 for PC and Xbox, and 2012 for the Playstation Network.

It’s a weird beast in many ways.

It’s solid, but nothing special. It’s Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) to its core, and yet it also feels incredibly generic. The quests are short and simple, but they somehow feel like they take forever to complete. It’s quite linear, but in an open-world kind of way.

Most importantly, I can access it on Steam and you probably can’t. This is because the game has been removed from the Steam store, but not from the game libraries of those who owned it.

That’s a shame, because I honestly think this would be great fun with some buddies.

Let’s examine the game and see why I think it holds up today, even with all its flaws.

Why I started Playing Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale again

Earlier this month (October 2020 if you’re a time traveller), Baldur’s Gate 3 released on Steam in Early Access (which is corporate-speak for ‘currently unfinished’). As a Windows 7 user, I’m able to play it in the exact same way that someone can play a book: I can look at it and read it, and every few minutes I get to interact with it.

Baldur’s Gate 3 doesn’t run very well on my computer, is what I’m saying.

So, to punish Baldur’s Gate 3 (I’m convinced games can tell these things), I played Divinity: Original Sin (which is basically the same game, but set in a non-D&D universe).

I’ve always had bad luck with controllers on PC. I’ve always had a wonky USB port or dodgy controllers or whatever. My current setup doesn’t have that issue (thank Tymora for small mercies!) so I’m FINALLY getting into using my controller to play games while casually laying on the couch in my study like a champ – instead of sitting at the computer desk like some kind of old-timey nerd.

This is relevant because I tried Divinity: Original Sin (D:OS) on controller, and I could honestly write a whole article about how cleverly designed the controller inputs for D:OS are.

I mean, I’m not going to do that – I just could if I wanted to. Which I don’t. Obviously.

D:OS is quite a complex game. There’s a lot to consider and even more to do. Moving things around your inventory is annoying and time-consuming. While that’s literally the only bad thing I have to say about playing D:OS via controller, it’s unavoidable and happens regularly – hardly ideal for the whole ‘casually playing a fun game’ vibe I was after.

So I was looking for a casual fantasy RPG game to play on controller, and I thought of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance. However, that’s not available for PC and I’m not interested in getting a PS2 emulator running.

That was when I realized that I still own Daggerdale. I re-installed it – after nearly 10 years, mind you – and proceeded to plug away at it.

A Brief Overview of Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale

If you’re a giant nerd (like I used to be before I started couch-playing) you might care that the game uses the 4th edition of the D&D ruleset.

You have 4 characters to choose from:

– A Halfling Wizard

– An Elven Ranger

– A Human Fighter

– A Dwarven Cleric

I tend not to play Clerics, but given that I am psychologically incapable of not playing a Dwarf in games that offer them (I wish I was joking), I went with the Cleric here.

You start the game, which takes place in a mine, and are given quests to familiarize yourself with the areas on the map. There’s a noticeable lack of tutorial tips, but everything is simple enough to understand – especially for those of us with a basic understanding of how D&D works.

As you level up, you can put points into your abilities and skills.

For instance, I ended up mainly using axes on my Cleric, even though Clerics aren’t supposed to be able to use bladed weapons, ever. Cursory research indicates that this is allowed because the game uses 4th edition D&D rules. Interestingly, I wasn’t able to wear heavy armour – there wasn’t even a skill for it. That’s strange for a Cleric, who are basically magical warriors.

You also have several magical abilities to use. In typical D&D fashion, these are first used to complement your combat, and eventually become so powerful that the combat complements them instead.

You wander around doing quests for the Dwarves in the mine, where you can collect gold and sometimes health potions or equipment. If you don’t find the equipment you want, you might be able to buy it at a vendor.

You don’t have to do missions, you can just go to unlocked areas and grind XP and/or gold if you want. There isn’t a lot of variety when it comes to enemies, which drove a lot of people away when the game first released.

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale – Imperfect in all the right ways

Daggerdale is far from perfect. Some of the graphics for the armours haven’t been implemented properly, so equipping them will turn your character from a hardened combat veteran into a grape-flavoured gummi bear (as seen directly above).

There’s also a weird (if rare) glitch where the player will randomly target a dead enemy, meaning that they’ll always face in a certain direction until you restart the game.

The graphics are hella brown, and also kind of outdated (obviously). Seriously, this game makes Hellgate: London look like Candy Crush when it comes to the colour palette. However, I love both of those aesthetics, so I’ve quite enjoyed getting back into the game.

I find myself returning to the game every few days or so. When I just want to hit some goblins with a big hammer (or axe), Daggerdale is the game for me.

Sure, it’s not finished but (and let’s be brutally honest here) that’s true of the majority of games nowadays – Early Access or not.

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